The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.

Schmitt: Thinking Out Loud – How to Become a Farm Cook

1-5-2015- column

I was looking forward to the new year being a year of new adventures. Little did I know my new adventure would start so quickly.

Mark Klaphake asked if I would be interested in writing about farm cooking. I started laughing. I have to apologize. Once you hear my story, you’ll just shake your head too!

I come from a family of wonderful cooks. My grandmother always had fresh pie on the counter or cookies in the freezer. She made all her grandchildren’ birthday cakes…homemade angel food cake with 7 minute frosting! She swore brown eggs were the secret to cake. Her daughter, my mother, is just as good as a cook. Homemade caramel rolls on Christmas morning. Always extra food on the stove in case someone stopped by at lunch time. I think some people actually made a point of coming to our house at noon for Mom’s cooking. Neither woman was fancy, just good home cooking.

My two sisters are also great cooks. One could open her own restaurant. The other sells cheesecakes at fundraisers for over $500!

Then there is me. I couldn’t even boil water. I was such a klutz in the kitchen that I wasn’t even allowed to carry the jello salad to the car for school potluck dinners. I killed more yeast trying to make pizza dough from a box. I was not a cook but I had a knack for taste testing. I was Mom’s taste tester. With a quick swipe of my little finger in a bowl of cookie dough, I learned how things were suppose to taste. Needless to say, I left the kitchen to my sisters and I worked with my brother outside.

I survived my young adult life by having roommates who loved to cook. This arrangement worked well for me until Mark and I were married. He cooked even less than me, so I got the job by default. The first thing I did was subscribe to a great magazine called “Taste of Home”. Many of the recipes I use today are from my well worn and splattered issues. My grandmother also gave me “The Joy of Cooking” cookbook as a shower gift. Pages are falling out of my book where our favorite recipes are written. My “Betty Crocker Cookbook” is from the 70’s with the latest fondue recipes and simple ingredients.

Through the years, Mark has been my guinea pig for new recipes. He never wasted anything I put before him, but he has suggested that I don’t need to make cornbread surprise again. With the kids, my focus turned to easy recipes in which I could sneak the most vegetables in a single dish in which they would still eat.

As most farm cooks, I’ve come up with some standard recipes and common sense tips to get a balanced meal on the table for family and friends.

Since when did a vacuum cleaner and a dust buster become kitchen appliances? You won’t believe how I’ve used them.


As their 4 children pursue dairy careers off the farm, Natalie and Mark are starting a new adventure of milking registered Holsteins just because they like good cows on their Minnesota farm. Natalie grew up in Stronghurst, the daughter of Becky and the late Larry Dowell.